Welcome to IdeaJones.com

Articles, radio stories, ads, columns, corporate communications, novels or scripts – we’re never short of ideas. We also have a small shop at Etsy.com.


Joey Jones is the published author and editor of many newspaper and magazine articles, radio stories, advertisements and commentaries, and has ghostwritten everything from speeches to love letters. She is a past Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting semifinalist and Fade In: Screenwriting Awards quarterfinalist. She also gathers sound and conducts interviews as a freelance field producer in the Sacramento area, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series.

Mark Jones makes a living producing radio shows (check out Connections on Capital Public Radio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s heard weekday evenings on CapRadio’s four news stations, and Sunday mornings on 91.3FM KUOP Stockton/Modesto. Mark has also sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.


We’re about the story. Whether it’s the facts and figures of nonfiction, or the deeper truth of fiction, we want to find just the right words, sounds, and/or images to get it across.

We’re also about the process. “Do the work right, and on time.” Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.


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A Dream Of Forgiveness

Dream of Forgiveness IdeaJones What is forgiveness? When and how does one forgive? Are there unforgivable actions?

I had a dream, sort of a nightmare but also seductive. Someone who had hurt me, in myriad ways, about as badly as you can hurt someone, and I had him down on the ground and I was beating him.

Horrifying in that I’m not usually an angry or violent person, and I wasn’t just hitting him. I was pounding him, obliterating him. This was all very graphic. In the heightened awareness that belongs to dreams and a few, rare waking moments, I could feel beyond feeling, hear every gasp, grunt, rasp of fabric on concrete, the different sounds my fists made depending on where they landed. I could smell everything (better left not detailed), even taste it.

This person is gone and has been for some time, and I’d gone through a lot of work to forgive him. A recent revelation brought all that old stuff I’d thought not just buried but dealt with, processed and done back to life.

You see, I’d hung my forgiveness on one thought, that as sick and awful as he could be, nothing he’d done to me was conscious. Not deliberate, by choice. He was out of control, I told myself. Sick. He’d hurt me, but he hadn’t meant to hurt me. That would have made it all so much worse, if he’d chosen to instead of just blindly thrashing around. If I’d been a chosen target, not just a victim of a sort of terrible accident.

That one idea was what I hung all the forgiveness on. It made it possible for me to forgive him.

Years pass, he’s gone, and someone asked me a question. I answered it and in that moment all the foundations of that forgiveness crumbled. The answer to that question made it clear, beyond argument or interpretation, that at least some of what he’d done had been done by intent. Victim chosen, actions planned. Target identified, aimed at and hit.

The foundation I’d based forgiveness on had been jackhammered, suddenly removed, sending the forgiveness toppling. Talking to him, were that possible, would have been as fruitless as it always was, after all, while he hadn’t denied what he’d done, he also never expressed any regret or guilt for it. Just anger that I’d finally told anyone. What he’d done wasn’t the problem — my talking about it was, to his mind, the problem. Not what he’d done but that anyone knew.

And talking to him wasn’t an option. He’s gone, after all.

I sat up in bed, shaking, angry, frustrated, frightened of the force of my own reaction. And resentful. I’d been through this before, after all. Faced the demons, forgave him, moved on. And here I was with it all to do again.

A friend asked if it was necessary for me to forgive him again. Couldn’t I just move on? Forgiveness, she rightly pointed out, doesn’t come when you call. It’s a process and can’t be rushed. One can’t magically forgive just for wanting to.

She had a good point. The problem is, my mind tends to circle something like this until I find a way to forgive. Until then, it just won’t let it be. My mother used to say once she got something in mind she was like a dog with a bone, and I’m my mother’s daughter. Until I found some bit of forgiveness for this person, my mind would keep turning it over, rolling it around, looking for an answer.

I did try putting it aside. Over and over. And found myself sleepless and shaking, alarmed at how delicious I’d found pulverizing another human being, even in a dream. How satisfying I had found his screams as they became cries, then whimpers. How much I hated feeling the seductiveness of rage.

He was a tortured, complicated, injured, sick human being. Good at faking it in public, and even in his own mind. He edited life as he lived it. You could go through an experience side by side with him and not recognize it an hour later when listening to him tell someone else about it. He would tell me things weren’t happening as they happened or that something else was happening than what was clearly going on, and believed his own lies. And the events that had been at the back of all this were ones I’d always remembered clearly (not the sort of thing one forgets, after all). It was just that I hadn’t wanted to look at them closely. It was all bad enough on the surface, but taking a closer look, it became clear that those times, and others, had been calculated and planned. I’d just avoided admitting that, because if I admitted that he deliberately hurt me, how could I love him, and I did?

I hung all my forgiveness on believing he never meant to hurt me, he hung his existence on false memories he created for himself about who he was and what had happened.

I got past loving him, for the most part. It wasn’t possible to forgive him at all while I still loved him and hoped that he would realize what he’d done, repent, and love me back. It was so hard to let go of that hope that I hung on to it, and him, for years, loving him and yet never forgiving, holding it for the day all was made right. In time, I realized all would not be made right. Our relationship would never be what it should be because he didn’t have it to give. I walked away, and my only regret was that I didn’t do it sooner.

And here I am, knowing I will have to forgive him. Not because he deserves it. He doesn’t. Not because he asked for it. He never did and now he can’t. So far as I know, he went to his grave whining about how he missed me and unable to understand why I told anyone what happened. Again, for him, the problem was never what he did, it was that I talked about it.

I have to forgive him one last time because I’m tired of carrying around this load he put on me. And maybe that’s my path forward.

Putting it down for no other reason than because I don’t want to carry it any more. I don’t want him to control any part of who I am or how I feel. Perhaps what I’m looking for is not the forgiveness that should follow repentance. Perhaps the flavor of forgiveness I’m seeking is that granted by someone who just isn’t interested in expending energy to maintain anger or resentment.

Forgiveness isn’t forgetness, but it is freedom. He gave me burdens. I’m going to learn to put them down and give myself release.

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What’s Coming To You

Why Not You 2 IdeaJones

” Accept yourself as you are. Otherwise you will never see opportunity. You will not feel free to move toward it; you will feel you are not deserving.” — Maxwell Maltz

“To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target.” — Ashleigh Brilliant

Sitting on the edge of the bed, putting my shoes on, I had a revelation. A “road to Damascus, stop the presses, pardon me while I pick my jaw up off the floor,” genuine, solid gold or at least silver, not plated, revelation.

I could put away my guilt. Lay my burden down.

See, I’ve been scourging myself. No, I didn’t kill anyone (that I know of). No high crimes or treason to confess. I’d simply been walking around feeling undeserving. After all, who am I? I’m a decent sort but nothing stellar. Not famous, not wealthy, with only the power the average person has. My name won’t get a better table at a restaurant. I’m good at what I do but it’s unlikely to usher in a new age of anything or start a movement that would bear my name.

In other words, not “enough.”

Enough for what? Enough according to whom? Well, the latter is easier to answer than the former. No, that’s not true. Enough for what? Anything really great. Enough according to whom? A crowd of people from my past, the nebulous “they” who judge such things (the They of “They say…”). It was just part of my worldview, the lens through which I viewed everything, that I was not “enough.” Enough of what? Anything. Everything.

So my point of view, the place I started from, was always that I was inadequate according to everyone and undeserving of anything good. And a good morning to you, too!

I’ve worked for money since I was eight or nine. I don’t mean allowance, I mean earning income. First I baked cookies and sold them (on horseback from a saddle bag, neighbors being scattered where we lived then). Then I cleaned house for an elderly couple. I seeded flowers, raked composted sewage into hard desert earth, then when I was old enough, worked in fast food restaurants, waited tables, managed a couple of small restaurants… in other words, I worked. Even when I was briefly unemployed, I worked at getting work, right on through to becoming a freelance journalist.

Was I happy? Occasionally. I wasn’t constantly unhappy, certainly, nor was I often happy, but then I didn’t expect to be. I wasn’t raised to be. People didn’t talk about being happy or how to be happy or even whether or not to be happy. “Happy,” if it existed, was a nebulous, shifting, accidental thing that might or might not occur. Certainly you didn’t waste time looking for it or trying to get it. What I was supposed to be was useful, obedient and productive.

Then a few things happened. My accumulated injuries meant that I was no longer physically as productive, and sometimes not very much at all. The journalism landscape changed, and the flow of work became a trickle. I was no longer earning much.

No matter what else I did, no matter how hard I worked taking care of people, helping charities, or anything else, it just didn’t seem to matter because I wasn’t earning enough. There’s that word again. I hadn’t been “enough” when I was earning a good income. How could I possibly be okay with myself when I wasn’t?

I was writing, things I really enjoyed writing that were important to me. And sculpting and drawing. But in the world I was raised in, these were all “just hobbies,” and therefore unimportant. Unproductive. Unworthy. True, there were people who said they liked my work. They enjoyed the writing. They were moved by the artwork. But still that voice in my head. To “waste” time on all of that when I “should” be working…

Mark said he believed in my talent and he’d live with a lower income so that I could pursue the things I really wanted, had always wanted, to do. It was about time, he said, that I had a chance to live my own life.

And I tried. I did what I knew to do. I worked hard. Got into juried art shows. Started getting some interest in the novels. But still the guilt. I wasn’t bringing in much money (to which Mark would always say, “yet”). I wasn’t worthy of the chance being given to me. I felt guilty that we had to drive our old beater truck, that we couldn’t do or buy other things… I felt guilty for the sacrifices I felt Mark was making for me when it might never pay off, financially. I pursued my dreams but did it while dragging guilt and a sense of unworthiness around with me. I didn’t “deserve” this chance, Mark’s sacrifice.

Talking with a friend, she brought up the idea of being “worthy.” As we talked and I told her she was a good person and as worthy as anyone and more than some, it occurred to me that good things happen to awful people all the time. They get great jobs, win prizes, all of that. Did they win because they were worthy? Sometimes, I told her, it’s just your turn. The job you didn’t get? Probably not because you weren’t worthy, or were less worthy than the person who did. We’ve all seen the less-qualified person get the job. Sometimes people get things whether or not they’re worthy, or when they are but we can’t see it.

The next day, putting on my shoes, it came to me. When it happens to you, no point in dragging yourself down by feelings that you aren’t worthy. Don’t even ask if you’re worthy. It just happens to be your turn. Take it and run with it. Enjoy it! Share it with others in some way. Spread it around. It isn’t always your turn, or anybody’s turn. Don’t waste it. When you get your turn, make the most of it.

It doesn’t matter if I’m worthy of my chance or not. It matters what I do with it. Maybe the being worthy isn’t in getting the chance, it’s in what you do with it.

So, head high, I’m enjoying the opportunity Mark has given me to pursue my dreams. I can be worthy by not wasting it, by taking it and dancing with it. Why not me? Why not you? We can be worthy.

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What Makes A Happy Holidays?

Merlin wishes you happy holidays. Really.

Merlin wishes you happy holidays. Really.

Every year from November through December (at least) we get pelted with messages telling us what will make our holidays all we dream of, full of warm closeness and laughter, golden bright, strewn about with ribbons and tinsel. The. Best. Christmas (or holiday of your choice). EVER!

Maybe it’s because Mark and I are home fighting off killer bronchitis, but I find I’m looking at this stuff more skeptically than usual. Not cynical, just not altogether on board the “Perfect Holiday” train.

Voltaire once said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. This can mean that you bypass what is good because good isn’t good enough, you’re waiting for perfect.

In holiday terms, it means a series of holiday seasons entered into with anticipation that turns to frustration and then to disappointment. “Why can’t (he/she/they) make an effort to (whatever it is they’re not doing you want them to do)? It’s the holidays!”

We stare at the situations and people around us willing them to be different because this time is special. The store where the clerks never seem to be very motivated to help, the people who are bossy, or cranky, or needy all the rest of the year… can’t they try to be better, just for the holidays?

But we are who we are, 24/7. The people we are on Monday morning waiting for the coffee to brew and on tax filing day and Friday evening in traffic are the people we are on special occasions. Sometimes more so… tired from shopping and shipping and cooking and worrying about meeting the expectations of people around us and barraged with messages telling us we could be closer, kinder, shinier, better somehow if we wanted to be, most of us aren’t at our best during the holidays. If Uncle Aldo is usually loud, judgmental and unwilling to listen, which is more likely, that he’ll be even more that way than usual, or that he’ll miraculously be completely different? If you’ve ever said, “Why can’t (insert name) just (insert thing this person doesn’t do)? It’s (insert holiday or event)?!?,” what you’re really saying is “Why can’t this person be some other person entirely?”

Another quote: “God, grant that twice two be not four.” — Ivan Turgenev

I used to drive myself (and Mark) insane, desperately trying to “salvage” some sort of wonderful Christmas from the usual wreckage we had to work with (dysfunctional family, work stress, etc.). I’d exhaust myself trying to clean and decorate, shop, ship, plan, cook… all while waiting for that warm glow to kick in. A relative would throw a holiday tantrum (every year, not always the same relative), then another. Rounds of stressful phone calls, rescheduling, last-minute work assignments, and all the while the commercials and specials and whatnot in the background, that constant chant that the holidays were supposed to be a certain way, some way that we could not make given what we had to work with. You can’t make a cathedral from a handful of Popsicle sticks and a dented soda can. We had a string of fatiguing holidays that left us disappointed and sad. After all, it’s worse to sit out on the step all day expecting a parade that never comes than it is to just spend the day sitting on the step.

So I’m on a quest for a truly happy Christmas, one not dependent on anything being a certain way, on the tree looking just right (we’re sick — the tree is up and bears one clot of lights, haphazardly strung), or a menu that could be featured in a magazine (chicken soup! gelatin!), or a room full of freshly-scrubbed, beaming faces (we love our loved ones too much to subject them to this cold). It’s not the Christmas I’d planned, and Lord knows it’s not the one I would have chosen, but it’s not bad. Instead of creating a yardstick and holding the day up to it, sad when it doesn’t measure up, I’m just letting it unfold and be what it is, open to whatever good is available today.

And next year? Hopefully, we won’t be sick. Would like to decorate the tree and a few things… but I’ll try to remind myself not to run right past the good while chasing the perfect. People, situations — I want to be open to what there is available to me, not staring at the package of my day thinking it’s nice but not what I had in mind.

Hoping you and yours have a safe, happy, healthy holiday season.

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Learning Tips From A Tutor — Don’t Get Married For The Wedding

Working with a friend who is seeking his GED, we talked about how he came so close when he took the GED test before, and what he can do differently this time. He was within a point of getting his GED when he took the test, a heartbreaker, and I respect him for trying again.

When we talked about how he prepared for the test last time, I realized that he had concentrated so hard on the test, as though that would be the end of the process. He’s also studying to become licensed as a truck driver. I helped him study and pointed out that he was so fixed on the test itself, he’d lost sight of the real goal, a career. The license is necessary but the exam, and the license, isn’t the goal. Those are steps to the goal, which would be the career that followed. “You’re studying for the test,” I told him, “but the test is just to show that you know the information you’ll need when you’re doing the job. Don’t study for the test, study for the career, so you’ll know this stuff and be able to use it.”

He blinked at me. “That’s what I do,” he said. “I study for the test. I did the same thing with the GED. I didn’t study to understand it and be able to use it — I studied to pass the test. This time I’m studying for understanding more than for the test, so I’m remembering more.” It’s true. His English has improved so much in the past year. He’s worked hard, and it shows. He hasn’t just memorized things; he’s understanding concepts. “It’s like when someone gets married for the wedding,” he told me. “A wedding isn’t about the wedding. It’s about the marriage and the years and the life that follow.”

And learning is about understanding. Yes, we need to pass the tests, but the tests are to show that we understand and can, hopefully, make use of the information. My friend has stopped studying for the test, or, as he puts it, getting married for the wedding, and he’s really learning.

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